Memories of who we once were fade with time just as all things created by man will eventually return to the natural elements from which they were made. Trying to replay the past is a futile ambition though doing so provides a sense of context for who we are.
On a discovery trip through upper Anson County and while driving north along Hwy 742 just south of Richardson Creek, I passed by the decaying home place pictured at the top of this page. Against the greening fields and still brown trees, the chimney glowed brightly showing-off its earthy colors in the light of the late winter sun. I have no idea who may have lived there, but I’m sure time will have its due. It always does. I’m sure at some point all memory of this place will cease to be.
Driving a bit further, I passed over Richardson Creek where I saw a stately old farm house standing near the intersection of Thomas Road. With miles to go and my day not yet done, I regretfully overlooked the need to photograph the old home. So, a big thank you goes out to Mr Yellow Google Man for capturing the image to the right.
I remember stopping at this house many years ago and of being directed to speak to Mr. Roy Thomas who knew more about its past. It turns out the house was built by Calvin Thomas following his return from service in CSA Co. K, 26 Reg. NC. The son of Headley and Winney Baucom Thomas, Calvin was wounded and captured at Gettysburg. Confined at Fort Delaware, Point Lookout Maryland, he was released at City Point, Virginia before returning to duty. Calvin was later released at Lee’s surrender on 9 Apr 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse VA.
Before moving on a little needs to be said about the unit in which Calvin served. At Gettysburg but a few short feet from the base of a wall infamously known as the Angle stands a simple monument placed by the State of North Carolina. Marking the falling point of the furthest advance by any Confederate regiment engaged at Gettysburg, the pink granite stone locates the position where Calvin’ 26th Regiment fell in battle. It’s a story for historians and continues to be held up as a very important achievement though research shows the claim may have been made in error. I’ve had the chance to visit Gettysburg and in doing so put together a bit on the claim.
I remember Mr. Roy Thomas telling me of his ancestor Calvin Thomas. As a small barefoot child, Roy was there in 1910 at the funeral of Calvin Thomas. Roy remembered that day and of the wagon that carried Calvin away. He remembered the wails of sadness and of walking behind the wagon as it carried the body up the winding road to the Edwards burial ground.
Heading north on Hwy 742 from Calvin Thomas’ home place, I turned almost immediately right onto Thomas Road and soon-after to the left onto an unmarked gravel road known as Carpenter Road Extension. On the day of my trip I passed by a house deep in the woods doing all it could to hide from my sight. And, down the hill and around the slope of a hill was the final destination of my day’s drive.
So, on Carpenter Road Extension less than a mile as the crow flies from Calvin Thomas’ old house stands the remains of a graveyard believed to be that of Calvin’s father whose name is Headley Thomas. What a name! I know there’s a Headley Colburn and Headley Polk in early Anson County, but have always wondered where the name came from? Again going to Google for part of the answer, I learned “this interesting surname, with variant spellings Hedley and Headly, is of English locational origin from “Headley” in Hampshire and Surrey. The former was recorded “Hallege” in the Domesday Book of 1086, and the latter appeared as “Hallega” in the same source. The place name itself comes from the Old English pre-seventh Century “haep-leah”, meaning “clearing overgrown with heather”.
Wow! …”Clearing overgrown with heather” could not be a better expression for the landscape and memories that lied before me. On one side of the road stood an old house standing in faltering opposition to the forces of time and gravity. Now pocked with holes and the resting place of buzzards, the home peered out solemnly from an overgrown grove of trees. And of its story, I remember Ms. Annie Lee Traywick telling me years ago that she was not sure the house belonged to Headley Thomas. Rather, she surely knew it to be the home of a later resident whose name I now forget.
The house was complete with two ornate chimneys along with detailed trim molding. There was a front porch along with what’s referred to as an outdoor “summer room.” Actively plowed farm land encircled the house and across the gravel road in a field stood a huge and gnarly tree. Just a short distance away from the house, at the base of this tree, the presence of daffodils and periwinkle alert approaching visitors that this is the hallowed resting place of family past. Tradition and location indicates this is the resting place of the Headley Thomas family. And yet, many years of farming and the likely bedding down of wildlife have played its toll. Of the several stones remaining only four showed visible signs of writing. One was grossly worn but appeared it was professionally engraved. Another only showed the horizontal guide marks with possibly cursive script. And, the last one simply read:
At some point I hope to map the lands of Headley Thomas and others as far east as Rocky Mount Church. But for now, we need to preserve and share what history we have. It would be great to know who lived in the house across the road from the Headley Thomas Cemetery. And, who lived in the house up the road? Was it a sharecropper’s house?
In closing, I’d like for you to consider the following two images. It’s my belief that in the long term, nature always win. But, while we’re here on earth, what we do matters in all ways. Quality of life doesn’t just happen. And, we all must realize that even while being reclaimed by nature, the promise of spring is ever-present.